Freshman Taylor Young’s late-game heroics led the top-seeded St. Thomas women’s basketball team over fourth-seed Gustavus 50-48 at home and into the MIAC conference finals.
With five seconds left in the game, senior Jazmin Townsend found a cutting Young for a heavily contested 10-foot jump shot that would turn into the game-winning basket.
“I was supposed to try and get all the way to the basket, but they were doubling down,” Young said. “Jazz was open, and she hit me with a pretty good pass. I knew I just had to make the shot.”
Coach Ruth Sinn designed the Tommies’ last play for Young to score, relying on her ability to drive to the hole.
“We were going to attack with Taylor off the dribble,” Sinn said. “If they doubled, she was going to kick it, which she did. And then it came back, and she did a nice job.
“Taylor’s done that for us in many games. She’s a person [who] will rise to the challenge.”
The Tommies and Gusties opened the first half with a back-and-forth effort, trading baskets on virtually every possession. Trailing the Gusties 18-15 midway through the first, junior Carolyn Dienhart drained a 3-pointer to even the score.
Dienhart’s shot sparked a 15-2 run that saw five different players score for the Tommies during the last eight minutes. Junior Sarah Smith, sophomore Kellie Ring and Townsend all hit key threes. St. Thomas finished the first half 5-9 from the 3-point line and took a 30-20 lead into the locker room.
“We were playing together and just finding a way” Smith said. “We knew we just had to keep the lead. Obviously we didn’t, but we pulled it out.”
The second half started with both teams having problems turning the ball over, but Gustavus began to heat up behind Molly Mathiowetz’s strong shooting, cutting the Tommies’ lead to four with 14 minutes remaining.
Determined to keep the Gusties out of reach, St. Thomas fought back, converting big steals from Young into baskets. With five minutes remaining in the game, the Tommies led 46-37, but the Gusties used an 11-2 run to tie the game at 48 with 1:41 remaining. Mathiowetz scored six points for the Gusties during a four-minute stretch and led all scorers with 22 points on 7-13 shooting.
“They were hitting tough shots, we’ve got to give them that,” Smith said. “Our offense wasn’t doing too hot so we knew we had to stop them on defense. We picked it up.”
After Young gave the Tommies a two-point lead with five seconds left, Gustavus took a timeout to draw up one final play. Putting the ball in junior Molly Geske’s hands, Gustavus hoped the guard could tie the game, but her desperation shot was too strong.
The Tommies held Geske, the Gustie’s leading scorer, to two points on 1-of-10 shooting. Sinn credited the Tommies’ defense for the victory and praised Townsend for her work against Geske.
“Jazz is a remarkable defender,” Sinn said. “Rarely against Jazz do you get an open look to the basket, and when you don’t, it wears on you.”
St. Thomas finished the game 7 of 13 from the 3-point line, but its 50 points marked the lowest scoring effort for the Tommies in their 40 postseason wins. Young, Townsend and Smith led St. Thomas with 10 points each, with Smith adding a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Tommies face Concordia-Moorhead at 3 p.m. Saturday on the Tommies’ home court. The Cobbers defeated St. Ben’s 79-68 Thursday night.
Ryan Shaver can be reached at Shav7005@stthomas.edu.